Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched several different student teams go above and beyond their normal coursework to impress professionals in the public relations and advertising world.
Grand prize winners of the Arthur W. Page Society’s case study competition picked up their prizes and addressed the organization’s annual spring meeting in New York. Needless to say, I was thrilled that the three students and their adviser, Matthew Ragas, PhD, are from DePaul—Maggie Christ, Renata Sandor and Andrew Tonne.
I also watched the rehearsals this week of an impressive team of DePaul advertising-focused students who became the university’s first team to ever present in the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition.
Just last month, I watched presentations by three Bateman Competition teams present impressive research and execution efforts, which was part of a class taught by colleague Maria DeMoya Taveras. Although they didn’t win, the teams gained valuable experience and Maria plans to build on this experience by fielding more teams for next year’s competition.
At the beginning of the month, I saw the considerable output from the award-winning efforts of the University of Alabama’s Capstone Agency promotion of #BetsyDay, which honored PR legend and Plank Center founder Betsy Plank.
All these programs and many others underscore the importance of award competition to encourage and reward professional-level work at the collegiate level. Plus, there are many psychological awards attached to such competition.
James S. O’Rourke, IV, Ph.D., Professor of Management at Notre Dame, is a major advocate of case studies. He says, “Learning how to write a case study will teach you not only how to craft a compelling management narrative, but also something about how to investigate, analyze, and think about authentic management problems. If your case is selected for publication, you’ll have a resume entry, an important touch point for business discussions, and a really cool document to put in front of a corporate recruiter. Why wouldn’t you want to do this?”
DePaul second-year grad student Maggie Christ confirms the Page Society Case Study competition helped hone her research and presentation skills, while offering a broader view of the PR profession. “I was already proud of my team for submitting the case study, but the opportunity to represent DePaul, my program and my team’s hard work is incomparable to all other grad school experiences combined,” says Maggie.” I met some of the industry’s top professionals who took a genuine interest in the case and my career. That’s not something you will experience in the classroom, even at the best schools.”
Professor Ragas, who advised DePaul winners of the Page case study competition grand prize as well as a first prize, agrees the experiences give students an edge by advancing their careers. “Competitive scholarships, fellowships and awards competitions, such as the Page Society case study competition, provide students with great opportunities to gain third-party validation and recognition for their work and to sharpen their professional experience.”
The Plank Center’s Jessika White notes that Betsy Plank always encouraged students to take advantage of all opportunities to learn including showcasing their work in competitions. She says awards programs provide insights about where you personally stand against the “competition.”
“Not only is it a resume addition by winning an award for your PR work, it can lead to more opportunities when starting your internship or job search,” Jessika says. “Employers are reaffirmed your work is up to industry standards.”
Advertising instructor Ken Krimstein was proud of his AAF team’s ability to make an impressive 20-minute virtual presentation and then “nail” 10 minutes of tough questions from actual clients. When I peeked in prior to the final presentation, two of the team members confessed to being terrified but they re-directed the nervous energy into a dynamic presentation. They finished third in the regional competition, but all were glad for the experience. Another important life experience before it “really” counts.
Bottom Line: Don’t pass up contests and other opportunities that let you build and confirm your ability to think, research, plan, create and execute award winning programs. You win even if you don’t walk away with the trophy.